“Ongoing health challenges* and tired of defining yourself and being defined by limitations? I’ll help you unearth the possibilities, rekindle HOPE, and stake your claim for a future worth loving and living.”
Entrenched… This word was ringing in my head this morning. Not a word that I even knew was in my vocabulary. But there it was.
I was reflecting on lives of friends and clients and myself when it bubbled up. I was thinking about big life changes and how frustratingly difficult (or seemingly impossible) it can be to make big changes in our lives even when we can logically see the value of the change.
We have other words for it. Stuck. In a rut. Trapped. But there’s something about this idea of digging in and staying put (in say, a military sense) in order to defend and protect something precious that is sticking with me. It’s like some of us are willing to go to our graves stuck in habits not serving our higher or grander visions for ourselves and our world.
It’s like in our entrenchment, we have dug in and are defending something. Which is fine if you can articulate what it is you’re protecting or defending. But I think many of us have forgotten.
The flip side is this. Despite being rooted in old habits and ways of being, we can choose to become entrenched in new habits and new ways of being. I have, and I bet you have too.
So the question becomes one of asking yourself what trench you’d like to climb your way out of that is no longer serving what you know to be the highest priorities in your life. And what new trench would you like to start digging for yourself?
You might have to figure out what you’ve been protecting all these years. Or maybe just start digging? ~Z
That’s the simple version. And let’s trust that some of their “want” is coming from a good caring place.
Some of it may also be coming from a place of discomfort. You know how uncomfortable you can feel when someone else is suffering and you feel like there’s really nothing you can do about it? But you want to do something so you say some trite comment like “this too shall pass”, or “it’ll all be okay”, or “it is what it is”, or “it could be worse”… (okay, these are some of my pet peeves when I hear them – I’m sure you’ve got some of your own).
The point is that we say these things because we’re uncomfortable, and saying them reduces that distress – if only for a moment. Here’s the thing: you don’t have to respond, and you don’t have to let them in. Use your armor of reminding yourself their comment is about them, not you.
Another reason they don’t get it is that they just don’t get it! They can’t know what it’s like to be you, just like you can’t know what it’s like to be them.
In that vein, I ran into a brilliant metaphor to living with illness called The Spoon Theory. Maybe you already know about it, but if not, I highly recommend a read. And perhaps more importantly, this is a resource forfolks in your life who aren’t getting it. It may explain your life in a way you’ve not been able to. This story/theory articulates the phenomenon of our limited resources and the hard choices you have to make day in and day out. And there are thousands of “spoonies” out there! ~Z
I don’t want to sound preachy here about all the gifts and silver linings that one gets from being perpetually sick. I certainly do not mean to trivialize how disheartening and even depressing it can be to have our lives derailed unexpectedly. I get it.
But I AM going to talk about the hidden treasures that – when we choose to see them – CAN reduce the suffering we create when we keep kicking and screaming and punching at a reality that doesn’t budge an inch. So if today’s the day you want to keep feeling sorry for yourself (and let me be clear, there are days when that is indeed the best choice), then come back to this when you can at least imagine being hopeful…
A mantra I learned somewhere goes like this: “For all that has been, thanks. For all that will be, YES”. Inherent in the first part is to be grateful for ALL things that have already happened. Even the “bad” things.
I’ve written before of practicing gratitude for the things in our lives we might otherwise take for granted (and learning to grow that part of our psyche to push out shaming thoughts). And this is taking another step – plugging in some otherwise unpleasant event into the practice. Doesn’t have to be the big nasty things – yet… Pick some little catastrophe and turn towards it with intentional gratitude (for it has already happened).
Try experimenting with repeating your “thanks” for this event until it melts into something less unsettling, or less disturbing. Or until the opportunity to learn or receive something that you otherwise might have missed reveals itself to you. Then you can smile ;-? ~Z
Flexible: able to bend without breaking, characterized by a ready capability to adapt to new, different, or changing requirements.
Flare ups, bad days, relapses… Whatever they are for you – they happen. Even in the best of times they happen – the day after a sleepless night, colds, flu, headaches etc. Sometimes we see them coming and even know how we’ve contributed. Sometimes they seemingly come out of nowhere.
Choice point: consciously choosing to respond (vs unconsciously reacting) to the news that your body isn’t going to live up to what you had planned for it. Can you step maturely towards your highest priorities or fall victim to self-defeating thoughts? Your first step matters…
The truth for most of us is, even those “flare ups” that come out of the blue aren’t really a surprise, because they’ve happened before and will happen again. So we can anticipate this, yes?
Fighting through it is one option. And sometimes it’s worth it – at a cost. Ignoring your limitations – pretending they don’t exist (and not changing your plans) is another even less enlightened choice.
John Wooden said “Don’t let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do”.
Make a list of things you CAN do when the “bad day” inevitably arrives. Can you read? Listen? Watch? Organize? Plan? Talk? Delegate? Reschedule things? Take breaks? Do some seemingly trivial thing you’ve been avoiding? Ask for help?
Honor your anger or grief or sadness or self-pity (versus suppressing it). Then find your list and go.
Consciously moving on to the back-up plans requires hope and optimism and belief and faith in your future. It’s not always easy. And it won’t get easier if we don’t plan and intentionally practice.
Flexibility (and persistence) are prerequisites to resilience… ~Z
“Without goals, acceptance has the tendency to become indifference” “…Leaving your future blank allows a diagnoses to crowd out your life”. – Danea Horn, from Chronic Resilience
I read another quote saying something like “A goal without a deadline is a dream”.
Quotes like this help me simplify my thinking, as I can certainly be a dreamer with “goals” that are just ideas without a commitment. And the gap between the dreams and my reality can be vast. I feel the vacuum when my life is undirected, and how it can start to fill up with dreams, indifference, fears, doubts and limiting self beliefs. Does that happen for you?
So I’ve been getting specific about some daily goals – targeting a minimum number of things I’ll get done in a day related to various areas of my life (work, music, exercise, household etc.). And when I say MINIMUM, I mean minimum. Because then, at least something gets done in each area rather than nothing.
And I’m learning that I like myself better when I have a way to evaluate whether I’ve met my own expectations – whether my actions have been congruent with the life I say I want to have. Yeah, I already knew that. But sometimes I forget. Because forgetting and playing the victim is easier…
So, I’ve got no fancy words of wisdom today, other than to report some progress on the front lines of the continuation of moving forward with my own re-invention of my identity, and purpose and lifestyle, by trying a few things a little differently.
Maybe you’ll be inspired to do the same? ~Z
PS: If you like this post, please forward it on or actually “like it” on facebook or LinkedIn. Thank you!
There’s a phenomenon called “internalized oppression”, defined thus: “The process by which a member of an oppressed group comes to accept and live out the inaccurate myths and stereotypes applied to the group.” from urbandictionary.com.
Unless you grew up on the moon, you absorbed various negative stereotypes about various kinds and groups of people – including people with disabilities or with chronic illness. Internalized Oppression is when you turn those negative judgments against yourself.
In general, your Internal Oppressor is going to reflect cultural attitudes that people who are not “fully able” are somehow less than. All you have to do is look at how we (as a culture) treat folks who live in nursing homes, who use wheel chairs, or who can’t see or hear. But this ain’t about “we”. It’s about YOU.
To get a taste of your self-trash-talk, carefully notice the stories you tell yourself the next time you run into someone “worse off” than you – say at the doctor’s office, or at work.
Because whatever you’re telling yourself about “them” to elevate yourself above them (“I’m not like that!”), is quite likely a version you’re telling yourself about yourself – and it’s something about being “less than” everyone else. And I’m guessing that if you’re sending those messages to yourself subconsciously, it’s contributing to some kind of self-sabotage.
Maybe you’re not advocating for yourself? Maybe you’ve slipped into fear, anxiety and/or depression? Maybe you’re giving up on fighting for something that matters? That job you want? That sexy single colleague or neighbor?
If this sounds familiar, consider starting with the stories you make up about others. See if you’re repeating a version of them to yourself about yourself.
Think up a new story that is TRUE about you. Repeat… ~Z
A common situation when coaching people in their personal growth and awareness around health and other issues, is when they are stuck – feeling trapped or helpless. I bet you know that place of “I don’t know what to do next!”.
My experience is, that’s not the whole truth. I think they DO know what to do. They just don’t like the solution. It doesn’t smell right or taste good. It’s risky or complicated. It might hurt someone they care about or rock somebody’s boat. So they unwittingly use confusion as a mask for telling themselves the truth (or rather for hearing it).
Confusion seems like a reasonable place to be when you’re faced with difficult choices. And it can be – for awhile. But staying confused prevents you from having to make a decision, or from doing something hard or unpleasant. How handy is that?
So when considering your options in the context of a dilemma, or just around the next first step from where you are now, do the hard work and really listen for the solutions that might be ugly or even seemingly unfathomable. You don’t have to choose them. But not considering them is keeping you stuck in a place where there seems to be no escape. And if you been confused for awhile, I’m guessing a good solution is in there if you’re brave enough to look at it and consider it.
There’s an escape from stuck. Sometimes the way out looks a lot like the way in to pain and suffering. But is it? ~Z
For many if not most of us, managing our “illness” takes time and energy away from other priorities. Not to mention the time lost when we feel too crappy to do much of anything.
What if time and energy are like food and water for your soul? What if you were on a space ship and suddenly found out you only had half as much food as you thought? Choices – whether consciously or unconsciously – will be made if you want to survive.
The flaw of that analogy is you probably want to thrive, not just survive. One of the first choices regarding your life may be whether you’re willing to wake yourself up as much as possible and look directly at the hard choices facing you. The alternative is to stay mostly asleep and pretend they’re not real or not real “yet”.
Here’s the deal: If you’ve been living in a way where most things in your life are seemingly of equal importance, or that everything you do has to be done perfectly or in a certain way – life is going to be damn hard for you until you can discriminate between what REALLY matters and what is simply a luxury.
Because you can’t have everything. Never could anyway. And now it’s just more obvious (if your eyes are open anyway). Maybe less of everything, but MORE of what matters to you?
You can start practicing making hard choices by making easy choices first. Pick one thing to let go of this week that isn’t connected to your deepest desires, values or dreams. Notice how it feels to let it go. Notice how it feels over hours and days.
Notice if it leaves room for something that matters that you’ve been avoiding.
Who wants to set new goals when you’re feeling like crap? Or when you never know when you’re going to have another spell of feeling poorly?
Who wants to try to set realistic goals when you don’t have a good idea of what your capacity is going to be on any given day?
Except here’s the deal: If you don’t create new goals, you create a vacuum. Vacuums get filled with something, but the chances of it magically overflowing with the things that matter to you, or bring you wellness or peace of mind… Well you know the saying about snowballs and chances…
That seemingly cautious void of goal-less-ness will more likely attract doubts, fears, helplessness and ultimately confusion and being stuck – maybe even despair and depression.
Not setting goals is waiting. Waiting is the same as doing nothing. Doing nothing is the same as being a victim and giving up your power to live. If you’re going to prevail over this illness thing, that’s not gonna work!
So if you’ve got no goals, your old goals have been commandeered by illness, or it’s just time for an update, set a new goal for yourself right now. Start simple and easy. Set a small goal for today.
The author of Mini Habits: Smaller Habits, Bigger Results speaks of making goals “stupid simple”. Like doing 1 pushup or 1 minute of housecleaning. Lots of little goals can add up to bigger goals – about living in alignment with YOUR most important things.
Goals can help you accept your life as it is, versus how you wish it were. Goals will help remove illness from its’ dictator role.
In Part I, I wrote of the gap between your current reality and your vision of your life – and the creative tension between them. If accept that denying your current reality is not the best option for creating a future and life you can love, read on.
My experience is that it’s a natural tendency to try to induce change in our lives by “adding” things – activities and commitments, new habits etc. Not necessarily a bad or wrong approach, but here’s a different one.
Spend more time and energy REALLY looking at your “current reality”. Look at how you live your life. Your routines. What’s getting done. What’s not getting done (or getting done poorly). What rituals and routines and habits (and “have to’s”) have become unconscious. Ask how each thing in your life is serving you – helpfully and unhelpfully. Yes, this is a project. Yes this takes some time.
The goal here is to discover something you’re doing that is an obstacle to the change you say you want in your life. And then choose to remove it. It’s probably something that made sense when you were more functional than you are now. Maybe it’s your bedtime, or how often you wash your bedding, or regular commitments to meetings or gatherings. But take a close look. And keep looking. Challenge it’s usefulness. Ask if it’s necessary.
You’ll know it when you see it. Then make plans to let it go – or just cut the ties now.
With our time and energy at a premium (to survive AND make the preparations for our “new normal”), there can be way more power in removing obstacles to growth and change than in pushing harder and adding new commitments. ~Z